Jerry Lee Lewis was an early pioneer of rock and roll music.
Born in Concordia Parish in eastern Louisiana, Jerry Lee's parents mortgaged their farm to buy him a piano and he began playing it along with his two cousins, Mickey Gilley and Jimmy Swaggart.
Influenced by a piano-playing older cousin Carl McCoy, the radio, and the sounds from the black juke joint across the tracks, Haney's Big House, Lewis created his style from black artists who were unable to play to white audiences. He mixed rhythm and blues, boogie-woogie, gospel, and country music, as well as ideas from established "country boogie" pianists like recording artists Moon Mullican and Merrill Moore.
|Jerry Lee's third wife, his 13-year-old cousin, Myra.|
After being expelled from Bible college, Jerry Lee started playing at clubs in and around Ferriday and Natchez, Mississippi, becoming part of the burgeoning new rock and roll sound and cutting his first demo recording in 1954. He made a trip to Nashville around 1955 where he played clubs and attempted to generate interest, but was turned down by the Grand Ole Opry.
Lewis traveled to Memphis, Tennessee in November 1956, to audition for Sun Records. Label owner Sam Phillips was away on a trip to Florida, but producer and engineer Jack Clement recorded Lewis's rendition of Ray Price's "Crazy Arms" and his own composition "End of The Road." During December 1956, Lewis began recording regularly, both as a solo artist and as a session musician for such Sun artists as Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash.
Jerry Lee's distinctive piano playing can be heard on many tracks recorded at Sun during late 1956 and early 1957, including Carl Perkins' "Matchbox,""Your True Love," "You Can Do No Wrong," and "Put Your Cat Clothes On," and Billy Lee Riley's "Flyin' Saucers Rock'n'Roll." Until this time, rockabilly had rarely featured piano, but it proved a highly influential addition and rockabilly artists on other labels soon also started working with pianists.
On December 4, 1956, Elvis Presley dropped in see Sam Phillips while Perkins was in the studio cutting new tracks with Lewis backing him on piano. Johnny Cash was also there, and the four started an impromptu jam session with the tape recorder running. These recordings, almost half of which were gospel songs, survived, and have been released on CD under the title Million Dollar Quartet.
Tracks also include Elvis Presley's "Don't Be Cruel" and "Paralyzed," Chuck Berry's "Brown Eyed Handsome Man," Pat Boone's "Don't Forbid Me" and Presley doing an impersonation of Jackie Wilson on "Don't Be Cruel."
Lewis's own singles - billed as "Jerry Lee Lewis and his Pumping Piano" - established Jerry Lee as a solo artist during 1957, with hits such as "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" and "Great Balls of Fire," his biggest hit, bringing him to national and international fame, despite some radio stations boycotting his music because they thought it was too "sexual."
In 2005, "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" was selected for permanent preservation in the National Recording Registry at the Library of Congress.
Lewis was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986 and his pioneering contribution to the genre has been recognized by the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. In 2008 He was inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame. In 2004, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked him number 24 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. In 2003, they listed his box set All Killer, No Filler: The Anthology number 242 on their list of "500 greatest albums of all time."
For more about Jerry Lee, visit his Website at -